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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Blood: The Last Vampire
Blood: The Last Vampire
Sony Pictures // R // October 20, 2009
List Price: $24.96 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Todd Douglass Jr. | posted October 26, 2009 | E-mail the Author
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The Movie:




Every once in a while a popular anime title makes its way to the big screen, but in not in an entirely familiar way. For quite a while anime fans everywhere have been watching live-action renditions of their favorite shows. Much like any type of crossover, these projects are often polarizing and typically not very good. Directors either try too hard to capture the essence of the anime in question, or they simply don't try hard enough. Blood: The Last Vampire is an example of the former.


Originally, Blood: The Last Vampire was an animated film that was created by famed production house, Production I.G. The animated feature came out in 2000 and made waves among the throngs of otaku that clamored to see what it was all about. It was an instant hit and just a few years ago we saw a continuation of the franchise in the form of the series Blood+. Now, with all of that being said, just because the animated version of the franchise was solid and a success doesn't mean it translates to the live-action version. In Blood: The Last Vampire the plot closely mirrors its animated counterpart to a point. Rather than dissect the differences between the two, I'll just talk about what this live-action version brings to the table.


The movie takes place in 1970 near an American military base in post WWII Japan. There's a lot of hostility all around, but the fact that the Americans are in the midst of a war with Vietnam helps set the timetable. In the opening scene we see a young Japanese girl named Saya (Gianna Jun) on a subway train, sitting relatively close to a business man reading a paper. He looks noticeably nervous and when the lights go out on the train he makes a break for it like a bat out of hell. Unfortunately for this guy he can't quite get away in time and Saya whips out a katana, slicing him in two. Queue up a secret group of American officers and we are quickly thrust into the world of Saya, the vampire hunter.


You see, much like Blade, Saya is a hybrid of sorts. She's half-human, half-vampire, and she has vowed revenge against the queen vampire, Onigen, who killed her father more than 400 years ago. These vampires are different than what we typically see. They can mimic humans, walk in daylight, and it takes more than a cross and a stake to kill them. As a hybrid Saya possesses all of their strengths, but it's her human soul which keeps her in check. She has trained for centuries to hunt these creatures, and it's her quest for revenge that landed her in a partnership with an organization known as the Council (think the Watchers from Highlander).


The Council sets her up with a cover on the American military base to get her into a school there in order to find some vampires that are killing people. While there she bumps into a young American girl named Alice, who is utterly useless as a character in this story. She's the deadweight of the plot and I think she's supposed to humanize Saya by becoming her friend. Unfortunately she winds up contrasting the character and is more of a distracting than anything else.



Alice sticks with Saya right through to the end and the movie basically just flows one fight after another. There's a lack of solid direction and apart from the set up of the film, which I just told you about, there really isn't much in the way of plot to follow. That's a shame really, the character of Saya is truly interesting and very rich. If the story were more robust then Blood: The Last Vampire would have been immensely more enjoyable. As it stands the film is merely an escapade in violence with terrible special effects and tacky looking CGI blood splatters.


In the end Blood: The Last Vampire is only mildly entertaining in the sense that fans of the animated film can appreciate it by leaving their brain at the door. The energy level remains the same throughout the film, there's a total lack of suspense, and the plot is paper thin at best. If you just want to see a girl in a Japanese school outfit slice people in half with a katana then you'll be fairly entertained. After all Ronny Yu produced the film, so there are some nice wire kung fu antics. Action only takes a movie so far though, and ultimately I'd say this one is a rental at best.


The DVD:





Video:


Blood: The Last Vampire hits DVD with a letterboxed 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen aspect ratio. The 2009 film looks pretty sharp with some strong visuals, a crisp presentation, and an overall clean image. The resolution isn't quite up to par with the Blu-ray release, as I'm sure you'd already suspect, but the quality is very good for a standard definition DVD. My only beef with the film is that there's simply too much use of filters here. Colors are extremely oversaturated and there is a yellow tint to everything that can be very distracting.


Audio:


I have to admit when I saw that the film was presented with English 5.1 Dolby Digital as its only source I thought, "Great, there's no original language track." I can't tell you how surprised I was to find out the film was produced in English! After watching the film it makes sense really, since the majority of the dialogue takes place on an American base and with Americans. Technically speaking Blood: The Last Vampire is fairly decent as well. The presence on the front and rear channels is adequate for the action and there's some nice directionality employed here. Bass is also employed liberally here and there, and many of the fight sequences pack a lot of punch. Optional English and French subtitles are included.


Extras:


Aside from some previews for other Sony Picture releases, there are a couple of featurettes to go through.


First and foremost there is a making of featurette (19:05), which is a nice collection of behind the scenes shots, pre-production clips, and interviews with the cast and crew. There's a nice bit of insight into what went on behind the camera and we even get to see some of the training the cast had to go through. It's not the most in depth featurette of this sort, but it's lengthy and there are a few bits that never made it into the final product. After the making of inclusion there is "Battling Demons: Behind the Stunts Featurette" (16:46). This one includes more behind the scenes material, but with a greater focus on Gianna's training and how some of the fight sequences were brought together. It's a little drier than the other featurette, but there are some interviews to help break up the monotony of watching wire practicing.


Final Thoughts:



Blood: The Last Vampire is not a horrible film, but it's not very good one either. The constant focus on fighting takes over the 89 minute runtime and pushes the story aside. Because of that there's really no suspense in the film and very little in terms of development. Saya is a strong character, that much is clear, but everyone else around here seems one-dimensional (Alice takes the award for most useless). The heavy use of CGI blood sprays, bad special effects, and wire antics leave this film feeling more like a cartoon than its animated predecessor. The movie is a guilty pleasure and something fans of the original anime version will find entertaining if they leave their brain and expectations at the door. The best Blood: The Last Vampire can achieve here is a rental recommendation.


Check out more of my reviews here. Head on over to my anime blog as well for random musings and reviews of anime, manga, and stuff from Japan!

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